Is this the best marketing job in Australia?
* Sponsored content: This article was commissioned by Bundaberg Brewed Drinks as the company searches for its next top-flight general manager marketing to drive growth in both the domestic and international markets, based in Brisbane. To learn more about the company and role, read this article, and to apply, forward your CV to [email protected]
Bundaberg Brewed Drinks is on the hunt for its next star GM marketing, so we chat with CEO John McLean to find out why this may just be the best marketing job in Australia.
Since 1968, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks has been in the Fleming family, and hasn’t changed its ways. As beverage companies around the world upgraded their methodologies, it kept the old fashioned way: everything Bundaberg manufactures is brewed.
By sticking to its guns, the brand has differentiated itself in the marketplace quite significantly, benefiting greatly from the current cravings for everything small-batch, hand-made. The movements about a return to craft in food and cocktails, as well as sustainability.
“I’d love to say there was a cunning plan about it, but I can’t,” says CEO John McLean. “My family before me knew that they had the best drink in the world. We’ve just done, as a business, what we love doing. It wasn’t an intentional thing to become a beverage that’s on trend.”
With a product that’s naturally authentic, digital and content now play a strong role in expanding on the brand’s values. Enter the ‘Brewniverse‘ and you’ll find recipes for burgers, cakes and cocktails that use and/or pair with Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, as well as ideas for reusing, or ‘upcycling’, empty bottles (pictured). One fan even sent in a photo of a Christmas tree made out of Bundaberg Ginger Beer bottles.
It’s in this position the brand finds itself as it searches for a new general manager marketing. We asked McLean about the job, and to explain his claim that it’s the best marketing job in Australia.
2015 was a pivotal year for Bundaberg Brewed Drinks. Two years of market research kept bringing up the fact that people love the brand, and the ginger beer in its iconic bottle, but awareness of the other flavours was lower, despite some of them having been around for decades.
Then last June, all flavours were launched in the stubby bottle previously reserved for the flagship flavour. “Everyone said, ‘Isn’t it great that Bundaberg’s finally released a diet ginger beer. Or a lemon lime bitters. That’s a bit of a slap in the face, because we’ve been making diet ginger beer for about 15 years, and lemon lime bitters since the beginning.”
McLean says it was a big decision for the Australian team, but an easy one. “Our marketing team did some phenomenal work but in the end, for me, it was an easy decision because it just felt right.”
And sales have picked up.
The brand currently exports to about 40 countries. New Zealand is the largest export market, and the United States is second, including holding the impressive title of biggest selling ginger beer in California.
“People said it’s an overnight success,” says McLean, but, “the United States has been bubbling along for around about 17 years.”
The past three years have seen a big push by the brand towards digital, as they have for many.
“It’s about starting to really connect with our loyal consumers without bombarding them with stupidness or just messages for message sake,” McLean says.
“I think we’re doing okay. When you look at the loyalty base of the fans, our adorers, they’re fairly engaged. We try to enter things as carefully as possible and as honestly as possible. We have a family Facebook page where myself and my wife talk about the business and answer questions and we’re starting to build that up. It’s one that we’re doing okay, but I think we can do a lot better at.”
McLean, who’s approaching 22 years with the business, describes the culture at the company in family terms. It’s a family company, of course, but also in a wider sense it’s a familial culture the leader tries to cultivate.
“It is something that I work on every day of the week. Culture is something that can go bad very quickly and takes a long time to make a positive influence.
“We’ve got some very simple values that we believe. When different suppliers and customers come into the business, that’s when you hear about your culture. You don’t know about your culture until you hear about it from other people who’ve been immersed and seen it. Suppliers and partners talk about never having seen a business like ours, where people just get stuff done
“They don’t care what their job description is. If something needs to be done, we all just get in and do it. If that means that I get down on the production floor if there’s an issue, I do it. If it means I have to press the flesh with the CEO of a large multinational company, I do it. Nothing’s below me or above me. I just get in and do it. That’s what we expect of all our people, just help out your mate. Teamwork is a crucial thing.
But it’s not the Brady Bunch.
“We’re a real family where we call each other out,” McLean says. “We make sure that we’re accountable to each other, that we’re doing the right thing.
“Unfortunately,” says McLean, “one of the benefits of having a good brand is sometimes you lose good people because they get really, really good job offers. My head of marketing was offered a phenomenal job, and we said goodbye as good friends and great colleagues.”
It’s an opportunity, he says. “We think we’ve got the best marketing job in Australia, and it’s in Brisbane.”
We ask McLean to back up this big claim.
“I look at a lot of companies in Australia, and they’re doing great stuff, but a lot of them are multinationals, so they don’t get the chance to influence to the level that this job will influence.
“There are not too many companies that are doing as much international business as we are with as much international focus as we are.
“We are one of the most competitive zones in the beverage market. We have to do battle against some of the largest budget people around. For that reason, this position has a chance to really sculpt the future of our business.”
The new GM marketing will be involved in a diverse range of responsibilities, from the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks tourist facility, to new-product development (NPD).
And, of course, the brand, the communications, working with researchers and agencies, of which there’s one each in Australia, the US and England.
With the international outlook, McLean says it’s an opportunity to help shape the company, as much as that might make him nervous. “I get scared sometimes when you talk to new marketing people because they like new labels. We’ve got a brand that has an exceptionally strong loyalty factor, and a very high recognition factor. Taking that around the world is a really existing opportunity for a lot of people.”
The marketing team consists of around five people in Australia and the US. It works closely with a trade marketing team that reports to sales, as well as the sales team.
When asked whether he’s looking for someone with category experience, McLean hesitates.
“I’ve come to the point where I really do recruit on attitude,” he says. “We’ll be looking for people with experience [but] I’m not closed in where people are coming from.”
“I’ve got a very good friend who’s just changed industries completely and he always thought he’d only ever be in FMCG, but he went somewhere else and he said it’s actually great to look from a different set of eyes.
“It’s more about how can we get the right person with the right attitude. It’s great to get a good person in, but it’s great to get a good person with a great attitude that wants to learn and grow. That’s what we’re really looking for.”
* Sponsored content: This article was commissioned by Bundaberg Brewed Drinks as the company searches for its next top-flight general manager marketing to drive growth in both the domestic and international markets. The ideal candidate will be highly experienced, have strong strategic skills, have FMCG experience and preferably a track record in brand development in international markets such as the UK, the US and Europe. The role reports directly to the CEO and is one of the key senior management roles at Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, an independent family-owned company which has enjoyed extraordinary success in recent years. An attractive remuneration package is on offer. This role and the marketing team are based in Brisbane, and considerable international travel will be required as part of this role. To apply, forward your CV directly to the HR team at [email protected]